BBB Recommends ‘Digital Dusting’ as Part of Your Annual Spring Cleaning

When most people consider Spring Cleaning they think of mops, brooms, and clearing out unwanted items to get a fresh start on the post-winter season.

Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois says, “In an era of ever-increasing identity and internet scams, it’s important for consumers to add a good ‘digital dusting’ to their spring-cleaning tradition.

“As we approach Secure Your Identity Day, on Saturday, April 27th we remind consumers and businesses that practicing good Cybersecurity is becoming a necessity and there are some simple steps everyone can take to be safer and more secure,” notes Bernas.

So much of our information is online. Hackers and other digital criminals are always changing and improving their efforts to steal our identity information and money.  We need to take action to help ensure our own protection.

Like any project, you can break it out into smaller segments, so you can make it more manageable. BBB suggests consumers follow this four-week outline for your digital spring cleaning.  

Week 1: UPDATE – Update Software; delete unused apps:

  • Keep all critical software current:
    • Having all software current is one of the best security measures you can take.
    • This includes security software, web browsers, document readers, operating systems and any other software you use regularly. 
    • If there is a security update, install it as soon as you can.
  • Delete apps not being used:
    • Most of us have apps we no longer use as well as ones that need updating. Delete unused apps and keep others current, including the operating system on your mobile device.
    • An added benefit of deleting unused apps is more storage space and longer battery life. Actively manage your location services, Bluetooth, microphone and camera – making sure apps use them appropriately.

Week 2: SECURE — Make Sure You’re Secure

Building on Week 1, users can enhance the security of their online accounts – a fast and simple way to be safer online. There are quick and easy things you can do that have long-term safety and security benefits.

  • Turn on two-step authentication:
    • Also known as two-step verification or multi-factor authentication ‒ on accounts where available.
    • Many of the Internet’s most popular email services, social networks and financial institutions offer this key security step free of charge, but you must opt in to turn it on.
    • Visit www.stopthinkconnect.org/2stepsahead to learn more and view a list of the websites that offer two-factor authentication.
  • Secure your router:
    • Make sure your router has a strong password and does not broadcast who you are through its name, such as “the Jones Family” or “123 Elm Street”.
    • Update your router software as well.
  • Make better passwords:
    • If your passwords are too short or easy to guess, it’s like leaving the front door to your home unlocked.
    • Longer passwords and those that combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols provide better protection.
    • Create an easy-to-remember phrase, then use only certain letters and numbers from the phrase as your password.
    • Unique account, unique password: Having separate passwords ‒ at least for key accounts like email, banking, and social networking ‒ helps to thwart cybercriminals.
    • Write it down and keep it safe: Everyone can forget a password. Keep a list that’s stored in a safe, secure place in your home.
  • Secure your phone:
    • Use a passcode or a finger swipe to unlock your phone.
    • Use same suggestions for computers with your phone.

Week 3: PURGE — Digital File Purge and Protection

Tend to your digital records, PCs, phones and any device with storage just as you do for paper files.

  • Clean up your email:
    • Save only those emails you really need. Your inbox is likely stuffed with lots of outdated materials.
    • Delete or archive what you don’t need and be sure to empty your deleted mail folders.
  • File upkeep:
    • Delete or archive older files such as numerous drafts of the same document and outdated financial statements.
  • Manage subscriptions:
    • Unsubscribe to newsletters, email alerts and updates you no longer read.
  • Dispose of electronics securely:
    • Simply deleting data isn’t enough. When you dispose of old electronics, look for facilities that shred hard drives, disks and memory cards.
    • Look for events that have electronic shredding. Some municipalities also offer this service.
  • Update your online photo album:
    • Back up photos you want to keep, and delete old or less flattering pictures of yourself and your family and friends. In addition to not showing your best side, they take up space.
  • Update your online relationships:
    • Review friends on social networks and contacts on phones and PCs.
    • Make sure everyone on those lists still belongs.
  • Back it up:
    • Copy important data to a secure cloud site or to another drive where it can be safely stored.
    • Password protect backup drives and keep them in a different location off the network for maximum security.
    • Commit to doing backups on a regular basis.
  • Empty your trash or recycle bin on all devices:
    • Make sure to permanently delete old files.

Week 4: CHECK UP – Give Yourself an Online Checkup

Parents and older kids with social media accounts can take an active role in making sure their online reputation is squeaky clean.

  • Own your online presence:
    • Review the privacy and security settings on websites you use to be sure that they remain set to your comfort level for sharing. It’s OK to limit with whom you share information.
  • Clean up your social media presence:
    • Delete old photos and comments that are embarrassing or no longer represent who you are.
  • Update your “online self”:
    • Are your social media sites up to date? Review your personal information and update it where needed.

Businesses can do a cyber safety check-up with BBB’s “5 Steps to Better Business Cybersecurity” at bbb.org/cybersecurity.